When I was a kid, my mom had a friend who had an annual "soup" party. Everyone was supposed to bring a pot of soup or a salad or dessert, and they'd feast. The hostess took great pride in her homemade soups, because she made it truly from scratch. She saved bones and trimmings in a bag in the freezer, then made broth from those, which she then turned into her famous soup. However, she rather bluntly collected bones from the plates of other dinner guests throughout the months. She'd say "oh, don't throw those away, I save them to make soup!" I remember my mom telling that story to me, and feeling rather squeamish with her that a once-gnawed beef t-bone or chicken leg would be going into a pot of FOOD.
I got over it. Years later as a young woman on my own, I loved to watch cooking shows. And it was then that I learned that you put all that good stuff - bones, necks, backs, skin, fat, bits of meat, knuckles, etc., into a large pot along with aromatic and root vegetables, cover it with water, and let it boil away for hours on your stove top. What a revelation! So began my journey into the wonderful world of broth.
Little did I know that not only was there delicious flavor to be had from those bones and trimmings, but the end product would literally brim with nutrition and goodness. Some years ago, I began reading and learning all I could about health and wellness. Turns out that the long, slow simmering of meat bones and vegetables results in a pot full of minerals, natural geletaine, vitamins, and trace nutrients. No wonder Jewish grandmothers have always known to make chicken soup from scratch to cure the common cold! Like so many things, this knowledge has been lost along the way.
If, when you read through this post and recipe, you might decide "oh, the canned or boxed stuff from the store tastes fine." Or perhaps, "bouillon cubes have always worked for me." STOP. Listen. I am not a health care professional, but there's something in that broth-can-box-cube routine that has been linked to oodles of health issues. MSG (monosodium glutamate) is not your friend! Nor are the cousins autolyzed yeast extract, hydrolized vegetable (or soy) protein, yeast extract, and sodium caseinate. They are all neurotoxins which means they mess with your brain function. Headaches are only the beginning. Do your research.
Homemade broth is a key ingredient in gourmet cooking. For that matter, it's a key ingredient even if you're just a simple home cook, or wanting to be one. So even if you don't give a hoot about health or nutrition, if you do appreciate flavor (and you know you do!), you simply must take an afternoon and make a pot of broth for your family. It takes but a few minutes to dump the ingredients into a large pot of water, then the magic happens all by itself while you take a nap, do laundry, watch a movie, or even get a good night's sleep. In fact, a great plan is to get it simmering before you turn in for the night - your house will have a bit of built-in extra heat and 8 hours is a perfect amount of time. You can strain it in the morning!
I personally only make beef and chicken stock. Lots of people make fish, veal, venison, and vegetable stocks. It's all the same basic idea. Quantities depend upon the size of your pot and the amount of bones you've accumulated! Keep a large freezer bag going, and when it gets full, pull it out and make broth.
CHICKEN (or BEEF) BROTH
4 - 6 pounds of chicken (or turkey or beef) bones including necks, backs, wing tips, anything leftover.
Don't forget the skin! You'll be straining the broth and skimming the fat, but there's lots of flavor to be had. You can also purchase beef soup bones from your grocery store.
4 large carrots, peeled quartered
4 large celery stalks, quartered
1 large onion, skin left on, quartered
1 whole head of garlic, cut in half
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons vinegar (key ingredient, pulls nutrients out of the bones!)
Extras: (these are important, if you have them!)
Fresh parsley, a large bunch, stems and all
Fresh thyme, several whole sprigs, or a tablespoon of dried
Fresh sage, or a tablespoon of dried
Celery leaves, the fresh and healthy ones
Dark green leek or green onion tops, the stuff you might throw away normally
One or two apples, unpeeled and quartered
You dump all of this into the largest pot you have. If you have two pots, fill them both up - might as well, right? Cover the contents with water - about an inch above the top. Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. 6 hours is the bare minimum for broth nutrition, 8-12 hours is excellent. Your goal is to extract as much flavor and goodness from each item in the pot! Don't cover the pot with a lid, you want the liquid to reduce and intensify the flavor.
Once you've decided that the pot of strange looking but delicious smelling goo is finished, turn off the stove. Let it cool for a couple hours before you strain it. You can strain it hot, but you have to exercise great caution. I usually cook the broth in one pot and then strain it into another. Press the solids in the strainer to extract all the liquid you can muster. Do NOT save the solids and think you can salvage any of the meat or veggies for soup. Yuck. Start fresh, please.
Put a lid on your pot of strained broth and refrigerate it overnight. In the morning, you should have a pot of chicken jello. Ok, not really, but it should wiggle and jiggle, and have a layer of solid white-ish fat on the top. Peel or scrape off the solid fat, toss it out, and your broth is ready to freeze. You might need to warm it slightly to make it easier to handle (jello is slippery, eh?). I put mine in plastic, one quart freezer containers - the taller kind that stack well. Leave about an inch of space for expansion, mark the lid with date and contents, and freeze for later glory. Or, be really cool and make a pot of soup with some of it that very day!
Here's to your good health!